Losing a loved one is tragic, and the loss can be compounded by finding out you have been left out of a will or gotten less than you expected from their estate.
Under certain circumstances, you can challenge a will in court – but you do need to consider several things. First, you can only challenge a will if you are the beneficiary of the current will, were listed as a beneficiary in a prior will, or you would have been a beneficiary had there been no will and intestacy laws applied.
Reasons for contesting a will
If you have the legal capacity to contest a will, you also need grounds for challenging the will. Some of the common grounds include:
- There was fraud or undue influence involved, probably from their caregiver who took advantage of the situation
- The will is not valid, and state requirements have not been met
- Your loved one lacked the testamentary capacity to make the will
- There is another will you believe is the most current one
All these reasons can form the basis of a contest, but the burden of proof lies on you to prove that the will should be struck.In Washington, you have four months from when a will is filed in probate court to challenge it. If you decide to contest the will later than that, your application will be time-barred, so you need to make up your mind fast.
Other things you need to consider before contesting a will
Among the things you should consider is the cost-benefit analysis of your contest. Unlike personal injury claims, you generally have to pay an attorney in advance to pursue a will contest. Given that there are costs involved, will you gain if things go your way? It’s not usually worth the money if you are only fighting over a small estate.
You also need to consider the disruption to your life. A contested will could have a devastating effect on your family and your relationships that will never heal. That’s also an important consideration before you start. If a contest is your best course of action, you need to be well prepared with all the information you will need to navigate your case.